Rising diesel prices that threaten their livelihood have prompted a number of independent owner-operators across the United States to think about going on strike. Many have seen profit margins shrink so substantially that they say they are unable to make enough money to continue hauling freight.
According to news reports, many independent groups have already begun demonstrations to protest high prices. WTAE in Pittsburgh reported a number of trucks lined up along I-70, KnoxNews.com in Knoxville, TN has reported a local strike in the works.
However, there have been no wide-scale strikes reported and many news reports suggest none are forthcoming. For example, the Rocky Mountain News pointed out “truckers are as organized as a herd of cats…they can’t agree on anything.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said that they have heard reports of members planning to strike, but the association cannot legally support a strike.
“Our organization does not call for strikes, as we are a trade association, not a union,” Norita Taylor, OOIDA media spokesperson, told Fleet Owner. “We do not tell our members what to do. They inform us of what they are doing and we support their decisions either way. April 1 and also March 31 were dates on which we have confirmed truckers were interested in participating in a shut down. We have heard rumors of other dates, but no confirmations.
“As to how many will strike--this is not something that can be pinpointed since many of our members have indicated they do not intend to participate,” Taylor added. “We have no confirmed numbers of participants.”
Diesel prices have increased more than a dollar per gallon in the past year, and some fleets have reported that fuel has surpassed labor as their biggest expense.
According to the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), the trucking industry will spend $135 billion on fuel this year, a $22 billion increase over the $112.6 billion spent on diesel in 2007. While this hurts all fleets, it puts a significant amount of strain on small operators who have less margin for error.“There is a disproportionate burden placed on small business owners who are truck drivers because they depend upon diesel to run their businesses,” OOIDA’s Taylor said. “At the same time, there is a low economy, less freight than truckers and volatile jumps in fuel prices which have placed a particular hardship upon them…We would like Congress to enact legislation mandating 100% pass-through of fuel surcharges and transparency in those transactions,” she added.